The European Spallation Source will be the world's most powerful neutron source

World's largest microscope and telescope get cash boost

The world’s most powerful microscope, the world’s largest telescope and a European space mission have received a £300m boost.

Announcing the new money, science minister David Willetts said one of the aims was to create new jobs through scientists and businesses working together on "exciting" programmes, which he said would create £150m for the economy every year.

Willetts said: "Investment in science is a crucial part of this government's long-term economic plan. It's about investing in our future, helping grow new industries and create more jobs – and that will mean more financial security for people across the country."

The biggest chunk of the investment, £165m, will go towards the European Spallation Source – a giant neutron microscope 30 times more powerful than the most powerful microscopes used today – which will be built in Lund, Sweden.

The facility, which will be the size of 140 football pitches, will use neutrons to examine materials in minute detail, enabling scientists to see and understand basic atomic structures and forces.

The facility will include a linear proton accelerator, a heavy-metal target station, a large array of state-of-the-art neutron instruments, a suite of laboratories, and a supercomputing data management and software development centre.

The facility should help discover new materials for the aerospace, semiconductor and pharmaceutical industries as well as super-long-life batteries and feather-lightweight kit for the military.

A further £100m will go towards the Square Kilometre Array, which will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world once it is online.

The telescope will produce 10 times the current global traffic of the Internet in data and British scientists are already helping to develop the central computer, which will read the huge volume of new data.

It is hoped the project could lead to spin-offs in faster smartphones and increased Internet speeds or in the data analysis market, which is expected to be worth £31bn globally by 2016.

The final £25m will go towards taking a leading role in the European M3 Space Mission – PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) – which will use an array of 34 small telescopes and cameras to search for planets around up to a million stars spread over half the sky by searching for regular dips in brightness as their planets transit in front of them.

Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said: "International collaboration is central to scientific progress and is essential if we are to deliver projects on the scale of the Square Kilometre Array, the European Spallation Source and the M3 Space Mission.

"Many scientific projects can only be pursued through such large-scale collaboration and it is great that the government has decided that the UK will play its full part. Investment in these projects is also an investment in British innovation and in the creation of sustainable economic growth built on our world-leading science."

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